Eid Mubarak! Reflections on the Holiday that Honors Trusting and Believing

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Chevre Stuffed Peppers

Afghan Sheer Berenj (Rice Pudding) and Palestinian Haloumi/Watermelon/Mint Salad

Eid Mubarak! It seems every Eid I have the intention of posting recipes for Eid sweets and dishes, yet the holiday overwhelms me and I do not find time to post. Eid Al-Adha celebrations continue well past the day of Eid, as pilgrims returning from Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina) return home.

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Chevre Stuffed Peppers

I love the celebration of Eid-Al-Adha which commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his only son (Ismail) based on God’s commandment. Right as Prophet Ibrahim was about to make this heart-wrenching sacrifice, God intervened and commanded him to sacrifice a lamb instead. It is a beautiful story that reminds us to just simply believe and trust in God. I myself struggle to do this on an every-day basis, it is easy to get frustrated and try to desperately resist reality….but Prophet Ibrahim’s story is a powerful reminder that to trust in God is key. Though things don’t make sense at the time, there is always a reason for everything and having that sense of belief is the only peace you will have in your life. This Eid comes at a time of, I would say, incredible challenges in my family, so remembering the story of Prophet Ibrahim, that intense belief he had in God and God’s mercy is calming.

I decided this year to do an Eid brunch at my parents’ house. Traditionally Afghan Eid brunch is a combination of sweet and salty spread, which is what I replicated but did a combination of all types of dishes, middle-eastern and western. It was actually just relaxing cooking all night, and of course impressing my mom that I could do it on my own :-)

Afghan Gosh-E-Feel: Thin fried dough topped with powdered sugar and pistachio

Afghan Gosh-E-Feel: Thin fried dough topped with powdered sugar and pistachio

Algerian Makrout El Louz: Almond Cookies

Algerian Makrout El Louz: Almond Cookies

Wishing everyone a blessed Eid, and congratulations to all the returning Hajjis (pilgrims).

Afghan Chapli Kabob and Uzbek Samosas

Afghan Chapli Kabob and Uzbek Samosas

My true passion: Baking! Raspberry-Lemon Cupcakes and Strawberry Chocolate Cups

My true passion: Baking! Raspberry-Lemon Cupcakes and Strawberry Chocolate Cups

Tahdigi: A Guilty Pleasure-Potato and Yogurt Crusted Rice

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There is an old Afghan saying that if a girl likes Tahdigi then it will rain on her wedding day…sure enough there was a light drizzle on the early morning of my wedding that luckily turned into a beautiful sunny day by late morning. Tahdigi is the bottom crunchy oily crust of rice. Afghans eat Tahdigi from the rice pot and may put it into a small bowl on the side for those whom like it, but it is never served as a dish and is seen as more of a silly guilty pleasure. My mom and grandma would always scrape out some Tahdigi for me into a small bowl after serving the rice, which I would be hesitant to share.

Chalow 3

However our neighbors in Iran (who have a very similar style of rice) eat Tahdigi as a main dish and treat it as a special delicacy. In Iran a woman is considered a very accomplished cook if she can make a delicious rice crust that comes out perfectly from the pot. Iranian Tahdigi usually has fried potatoes or pita as a base for the rice crust that is formed at the bottom. Since I love Tahdigi I have adapted the Iranian outlook on Tahdigi and like to make a fuss out of it and serve it for parties. I found it easier and a nicer presentation when I cook a deep Tahdigi in a separate skillet and can flip it on a platter to serve.

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Ingredients:

-3 cups of basmati rice washed and soaked for 1 hour

-5 strands of Saffron in half cup of warm water

- ½ cup Yogurt/Chakkah/Greek Yogurt

-1 tablespoon turmeric

- 5 large Potatoes sliced (enough to cover the base of the skillet)

-1 cup of Zereshk

1) Soak the Zereshk in warm water for about 10 minutes, and drain. Then fry the Zereshk in oil for about 5 minutes, sprinkle sugar and a few tablespoons of water on top. Let this fry for about five minutes.

2) Boil rice in salted boiling water until al dente. To check the rice, squeeze a grain of rice between your thumb and index finger and it should break but the rice should not be cooked all the way. Pour the rice in a drainer.

3) Carefully mix saffron water and half cup of yogurt with rice.

4) Heat up oil in a deep skillet, and stir 1 tablespoon of turmeric in the oil. Fry potatoes on both sides, until cooked.

5) Place rice on top of cooked potatoes carefully.

6) Cook uncovered on medium for about 10 minutes, you may hear the crust forming with some cackling noise at this time.

7) Cover skillet with 2 paper towel and place sauce lid on top. Turn temperature to medium-low and cook for another 20 minutes.

8) Once rice has finished cooking, let it cool for about 5 minutes. Take a platter, place face down on the skillet, and flip the Tahdigi out onto the platter.

9) Garnish with the Zereshk.

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Salata (Afghan Salad)

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Afghan Salad 3

Afghan Salata

Salata is the basic Afghan salad that is served with lunch and dinner. The thing I love about Afghan food is the balance, and that is evident with the fact that Afghans compliment nearly every dish with a salad. Whether it is Kabuli Palow, Shoola, Kabobs, or Buranee nearly every dish is served with salad.

Afghan Salad 1

Salata is finely minced tomatoes, parsley, and cucumbers as a base. You can add diced red onions, bell peppers, or substitute lettuce for parsley but this is the traditional salad. The more finely minced and diced the vegetables, the better. In our family my Amma and my sweet cousin Meena are known for making a beautifully finely minced salad that my grandfather would boast about at family dinners. Forget the Kabobs and Palows, for my grandfather a carefully prepared salad is the best part of the meal.

Salata is served with the usual sprinkling of dried mint, salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice. This makes a delicious and refreshing compliment to all Afghan dishes.

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Ingredients

4 Baby Persian Cucumbers

2 large Tomatoes

1/2 bunches of Parsley

Juice of 1 Lemon

1 tablespoon dried mint

Salt

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1) Wash your vegetables, especially the parsley individually to make sure there it is clean.

2) Finely dice the tomatoes and cucumber.

3) Finely chop the parsley, until you get to the stems which you can discard.

4) Whenever you are ready to serve the salad squeeze the lemons juice, and add the salt and dried mint.

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Zereshk Challow: “Jewelled Rice” (Basic Afghan Basmati Rice with Dried Barberries)

Zereshk Challow

Afghan rice is known for its perfect fluffy individual grains of rice, the cooking process is multi-stepped in order to get the perfect texture. All Afghan rice is prepared using Basmati rice, which is where half of the flavor and amazing texture comes from. Challow is basic white rice, it can be garnished with fried Zereshk (dried Barberries), almonds, pistachios, or even fried eggs. I personally love Zereshk Challow, as the sweet ruby colored gem-like berries perfectly compliment the fluffy cumin scented rice. Challow is often paired with popular side dishes such as Kufta-Challow (Meatballs), Kurma-Challow (Meat Stew), and Sabzi-Challow (Spinach).

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To make Afghan rice you first make Aw-Roghan which is the sauce for the rice. For Challow it is a basic sauce of water, oil, and salt. For more fancy rice dishes it can be a sauce mixed with saffron, turmeric, tomato sauce, or spinach sauce. It depends on what type of rice you are making. For Pallow the sauce is made from fried onions, meat broth and tomato sauce.

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First the rice is washed and soaked for a few hours. Then the rice is cooked in boiling salted water until al dente. To check if it is al dente you squeeze a grain of rice between your thumb and index finger. The rice should break with a gentle squeeze, but should still be firm and not too soft. Once al dente the rice is drained in a strainer. Check the rice to see if it is too salty, if it is you can lightly rinse it with water or reduce the salt in your Aw-Roghan.

Then the rice is carefully placed back onto the pot it was boiled in. It is gently mixed with the Aw Roghan and seasonings, for Challow you only use crushed cumin. But you must be very careful mixing so the rice does not break. At this point you can taste the rice to check and make sure the salt is right. After the rice is placed in the pot, you smooth the top of the rice and with the back of your spatula you make a few deep holes in the rice to the bottom of the pot. Then you check if there is liquid at the bottom of these “holes” if there is no liquid then you can add a little water in a few of the holes just so there is a tiny bit of water at the bottom. The pot of rice is then covered with a kitchen towel or foil to absorb the moisture. This is so the rice steams properly in the last stage of cooking.

The last stage of cooking is important as this is when you “Damm” the rice, which is basically steaming the rice and finishing up the cooking. This stage is what results in perfectly fluffy individual grained rice that fills every Afghan home with a heavenly aroma as the rice cooks. The trick here is the rice should be cooked at high temperature for about 1/3 of the cooking time, and for the rest it should be cooked at medium low. The cooking time depends on the type of rice, Pallow takes longest to cook and Challow takes the shortest time to cook. For Challow you cook on the stovetop on high for about 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to medium-low for twenty minutes.

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Challow                                                                                                                                                     

4 cups white basmati rice (should be soaked in water for at least an hour)

Aw Roghan:

1 cup of oil

1 cup of water

1 ½ teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

½ teaspoon of cumin seeds

1) It is important to soak the rice ahead of time for at least an hour.

2) First to prepare the Aw-Roghan boil 1 cup of oil, 1 cup of water, 1 1/2  teaspoons of salt. Make sure to taste Aw-Roghan as it should be slightly salty. Let this come to a soft boil and then let it cool to room temperature.

3) In a large pot boil salted water. Once it comes to a boil add your four cups of rice. Let this cook for about 5 minutes, or until rice is slightly soft but not cooked all the way. To check is the rice is ready take a grain of rice and squeeze it between your index finger and thumb. It should break into 2 pieces when squeezed gently.

4) Once rice is ready strain it in a rice colander in the sink. Taste your rice to see how salty it is, and keep in mind how salty your Aw-Roghan is. If the rice is too salty gently rinse the rice with lukewarm water.

5) Now take your empty pot that you boiled the rice in and pour the rice back in. Add the Aw-Roghan and Cumin. Make sure to carefully and thoroughly mix Aw-Roghan with the rice.

6) Smooth out the top of the rice and take the back of the ladle and make holes in the rice to the bottom of the pot. In each hole there should be just a little tiny bit of liquid, if there is no liquid then add a little water to a few of the holes.

7) Cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel and put aluminum foil on top. Place on high temperature, for 10 minutes. You should see steam coming out from the pot. Then lower the temperature to medium-low for about twenty to twenty-five minutes. This step is called “Damm” and is basically steaming the rice.

8) Once rice is ready serve on a platter and you can garnish with fried dried Barberries (Zereshk),  fried almonds, or a simple tomato sauce that is poured around the top.

Zereshk:

1) Leave the Zereshk to soak in warm water for about 10 minutes.

2) Once ready heat some oil and a frying pan, and add the Zereshk. Add about half a cup of water, and sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar on the Zereshk. Let this simmer for about five minutes, a light pink colored syrup should develop and the Zereshk should be soft once finished.

3) When the rice is cooked garnish with Zereshk, and spoon some of the liquid syrup on top of the rice.

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Chalow 6

 

Garlic Potato Buranee/Kachaloo Buranee

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Potato Buranee 1

In our house there was always a bit of a tug-of-war. My favorite carb is rice I love rice, and enjoy it with all dishes. My two younger sisters love potatoes, which is the one carb I can actually take a pass on and even prefer not to waste calories on. But the one potato dish we all agree on is Potato Buranee. This is the one dish we could all make and agree on, as it is simple and delicious
Potato Buranee 2
Potato Buranee is just like Eggplant Buranee, the only difference being that garlic plays a much bigger role in this dish. The potatoes are first fried in garlic flavored oil, and then minced garlic is sprinkled over the tomato sauce that is layered on the potatoes. And of course like all Buranee, the potatoes are served with nice thick Chakkah and sprinkled with mint.
I like to use Baby Red Potatoes, or any type of less starchy potato as I feel they fry and keep form better. And of course- Happy Birthday to my beautiful sisters who were both born in the month of April, and with whom I have enjoyed this dish on many relaxing evenings giggling and laughing as sisters always do.
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Ingredients
-1 24 ounce Baby Red Potatoes (About 10 small potatoes, I used a bag from Trader Joes)
-4 cloves freshly minced garlic
-1/2 cup Tomato Paste
-1 to 2 cups water
-2 Cups Chakkah/Greek Yogurt/Labneh (Thickly strained, mixed with 1 clove minced garlic and 1 teaspoon salt)
-Dried Mint
Potato Buranee 5
Potato Burani
1. Heat up the oil in a frying pan. I like to use olive oil as this adds a delicious flavor to the potatoes, but you have to be careful with olive oil as it may burn quicker.
2. Slice your potatoes nice and thin, similar to potato gratin about ¼ inch thick.
3. Add a clove of freshly minced garlic to the hot oil and give it a whirl.
4. Add the potato slices and fry on each side until golden brown.
5. In another shallow frying pan, place the potatoes, try to make it all one layer or at the most two layers. Then pour the tomato sauce on top of the potatoes. Finally sprinkle 2 cloves fresh minced garlic over the sauce. Cover the pan with a paper towel and let the potatoes simmer on medium-low for about twenty minutes with lid on. (I like to let the potatoes finish on the stove-top as the potatoes sometimes get dry in the oven)
6. To serve: Place a layer of Chakkah on a serving dish, carefully top with the potatoes, and add another layer of Chakkah and a sprinkle of fresh mint. (I went a little wild with the mint, but that is not necessary)

Tomato Sauce
1. Fry minced onion until golden-brown color and 2 cloves of minced garlic.
2. Add ½ cup of tomato paste and 1 to 2 cups of boiled water.
3. Let this come to a boil, and check the flavor. Add salt to season and a teaspoon of sugar to cut down on the acidity.
4. Let the sauce simmer on medium low for twenty minutes with lid on until the oil comes to the top and the sauce is ready. Alternatively you could just use a can of tomato sauce, but I like this sauce better as it is smoother.
Potato Buranee 6

Afghan Nowruz/New Year Creme Roll

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In wishing you all a happy Afghan New Year (Nowruz) I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes, in hopes that we all grow “flowers” this year.

         Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.

Rumi
creme roll 2

In the past I have posted about Haft-Mewa which is the traditional dried fruit salad made specifically for Nowruz. Usually one woman per family is designated with the special task of making Haft-Mewa. Other traditional sweets and cookies are also made for this holiday. This year I decided to make Afghan Crème Roll. This dessert is perplexing because it really seems obvious that the origins can’t be Afghan, yet every Afghan bakery you visit (especially around Eid and Nowruz) sells fresh Crème Roll. Afghans don’t have much of a sweet tooth which is why I think this buttery, savory, and only lightly sweetened dessert satisfies their palates. And I can’t help but think half of the delight in Crème Roll is the sophisticated name and fancy shape that makes it a special dessert for holiday occasions.
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Crème Roll is typically made with a thin flakey pastry, equivalent to what is used for Sambosa. Here puff pastry does the trick, and I would honestly recommend Trader Joe’s puff pastry or any brand that uses real butter for best flavor. For shaping the Crème Roll my mom would always use wooden rods wrapped in aluminum foil, but I find this to be an exhausting project. I had bought a set of stainless steel cannoli molds and used them for Eid, however I felt these came out too narrow in shape. My friend Fatima Jan actually recommended I use Crème Roll horns, which has worked best for me. You can purchase the horns on Amazon or Ebay, and choose the size you prefer.
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The crème is where things get more interesting. Traditionally fresh whipped cream is used, lightly sweetened with powdered sugar. But at some Afghan bakeries to prevent the cream from melting while sitting out, a filling made of butter, sugar, and cardamom is used.

I decided to do a little twist with the crème as that is really where all the flavor and sweetness is in this dessert. My favorite ice-cream is Persian Bastani, which is flavored with saffron and rose-water. For the crème filling I decided to make a rich aromatic cream filling incorporating saffron, rosewater, and cardamom. I topped the Crème Roll with powdered sugar and pistachio sprinkled on the pastries to achieve a similar flavor as Bastani ice-cream. My guests rave that these are best Crème Roll they have ever had, better than the ones from the bakeries in Kabul….while that may be overdoing it I have to admit these Crème Roll are delicious, with a delicate balance of savory, sweet, and have a special hint of spring with the fragrant touch of saffron and rosewater.

creme roll 1

*Saffron whipped cream inspired by a Persian Love Cake Recipe posted in the Bon Appetit June 2005 issue

Ingredients:
-Puff Pastry (Trader Joes or anything made with real butter is preferable)
-Cream Roll Horns (2 Sets of 8 should work fine)
-3 cups Heavy Whipping Cream Chilled
-1/2 cup Whole Milk or Egg Yolk
-1 Cup Powdered Sugar (to taste)
-1 Cup Powdered Pistachio (Pulsed in food grinder)
-A pinch of Saffron Threads
-2 Tablespoons Rosewater
-1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
-1/2 cup ground Pistachio

1. Preheat your oven for 425 degrees.
2. Place half cup of heavy whipping cream and saffron in a small sauce-pan on medium/low heat. As you do with saffron in normal cooking, you need to seep the saffron in the cream. Let this come to a gentle boil, remove from heat and let the cream cool in the fridge.
3. For the pastries, simply take out the sheet of pastry dough. Lay out the pastry dough so it is lying out in a rectangular shape, using a pizza cutter, cut long strips and wrap around the molds. (You don’t need grease the molds as the dough is buttery to begin with). Brush a milk or an egg yolk on the pastries.
4. Bake in preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes until a light golden color.
5. Let the pastries cool for about 10 minutes, and then pop out of the molds.
6. While the pastries are cooling, making the filling. Beat the 2 cups of heavy whipping cream and slowly sift in the ½ cup powdered sugar. Add as much sugar as you like, this really depends on personal preferences. Beat in the chilled saffron cream, 2 tablespoons of rosewater, and ½ teaspoon of ground cardamom.
7. Fill a small zip lock bag with the cream filling.
8. Carefully fill each pastry and place on a platter.
9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and pistachio.
10. And of course….take pictures and show off to your family and friends over this dessert that will surely impress.
***Wishing you all a very happy and joyous New Year

Aush: Afghan Noodle Soup

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Aush is a perfect dish for a busy winter day as it is a full meal in a bowl, you don’t need any side dishes or whatnot to accompany this wholesome soup. Aush is basically noodles cooked in meatball broth with vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, kidney beans, and chickpeas. The magic in this soup is in the dill, mint and fresh parsley that are used for seasoning. These herbs give the soup a really rich and delicious flavor. After the soup is all cooked, it is served with a thick dollop of Chakkah (strained yogurt). The contrast of the hot soup with the thick yogurt is heavenly as it makes the soup creamy and also lightens the dish.
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aush edit
I always loved the small mini-meatballs in Aush, my mom usually made ground beef but in today’s health-conscious world I have started using ground chicken and it is just as good. The first time I made Aush I deliberately left out the fresh parsley. Though I love parsley, I have a unique disdain and lack of patience for chopping up parsley and sorting through the leafs. For some reason I fret over this simple task, as I am a bit paranoid about making sure the leaves are properly washed, and don’t like “stringy parsley” so take time to eliminate pieces that have too much stem. So I figured I would just skip out on the parsley all together, much to my regret the Aush just lacked the depth of flavor I was used to. My friends who were over for lunch that rainy day were not so impressed and teased my mom that her Aush was so much better. So lesson learned is DO NOT leave out the parsley!! I personally am waiting for the day they start selling chopped packaged parsley…but until then be patient, sort through the leaves, take the extra few minutes in washing the parsley, and get a sharp knife to chop it all up nice and small for the Aush…you won’t regret it I assure you .
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Ingredients
-2 packets Ramon Noodles
-1 lb. Ground Beef or Ground Chicken
-1 Can Tomato Paste (About ½ a cup)
-2 cups Chickpeas (soaked overnight)
-2 cups Kidney Beans (soaked overnight)
-2 Potatoes (peeled and diced into cubes)
-3 carrots (peeled, diced)
-Salt, Black Pepper, Cumin
-Dried Dill Seasoning
-Dried Mint Seasoning
-1 Bunch Fresh Parsley
-2 Cups Chakkah/Greek Yogurt/Labneh (Mixed with 1 clove of minced garlic and juice of 1 lemon)

1. For the meatballs: Mix the ground beef with 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon coriander, ½ teaspoon ginger. If using ground chicken you may need to add 1/3 cup of flour or breadcrumbs to bind the meat. Wet your hands slightly and form small bite size meatballs.
2. In a big pot fry 1 large chopped onion (preferably chopped in a food processor) until golden brown. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and fry for about a minute with the onion.
3. Add the meatballs to the pot, and gently fry the meatballs with onion and garlic.
4. Once meatballs are evenly browned on the outside, add about 8 cups of water or vegetable broth and let the meatballs simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add the drained chickpeas and kidney beans and boil for another 30 minutes (if using canned, make sure to rinse and add all of the vegetables at the same time). Add boiled water if necessary.
4. Add the potatoes, carrots and tomato paste.
5. Also add 2 tablespoons of salt, and about ½ cup of Dill. (I am very heavy-handed with the dill as I love the flavor it adds to Aush). Let the vegetables simmer on medium/low with the pot covered until the vegetables are cooked.
6. Don’t add the Ramon noodles until you are ready to serve. Once ready, add the two packets of Ramon noodles and ½ cup of dried mint let this boil on medium.
7. Once the noodles are cooked, add the chopped fresh parsley. You can mix in the Chakkah with the soup, or add a dollop of Chakkah to each bowl. I prefer having the Chakkah placed separately in each bowl as I love the contrast of the hot soup and the cold creamy yogurt.
8. And as always with Aush: Serve Immediately!! Once you have cooked the Ramon noodles and added the fresh parsley you should serve immediately for best flavor.
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Afghan Eggplant: Bonjan Burani

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Once again I have neglected blogging; it has been a long cold miserable winter. And yes my mood reflects that, as does my growing belly which I have been over-indulging with every type of comfort food imaginable. Of course this a great excuse for a favorite Afghan dish: Bonjan Burani. I figured this is kind of healthy since it is a vegetable, though I did eat this with beautiful fresh-baked Sangak bread so maybe I was just tricking myself.
Eggplant is not very typical in western cuisine, but this dish of Bonjan Burani will make you fall in love with this oddly-named vegetable within a heartbeat.
This is a dish that most people don’t find appealing to look at, but from my experience after a bite even the pickiest eaters will beg for more. As a child I was not that big of a fan of Bonjan Burani (I favored Potato Burani which is similar but made of fried potatoes), I remember after I had my tonsils removed the diet of eating ice-cream and popsicles suddenly became a torturous punishment for me one evening. I was stuck in bed recovering from surgery and could smell the distinctive aroma of fried eggplant, so I called down the stairs and asked my mom what she was cooking. She replied that she was just doing the laundry and that I needed to get back in bed and rest. I was a very nosy and meddling child, so when my mom came upstairs I demanded to know if she was frying Bonjan (eggplant). I for some reason felt that since I was sick and unable to eat food, the rest of the family should suffer with me. My mom laughed and assured me she was not cooking Bonjan. A few hours later as I was lying in bed, still heavily medicated, the enticing smell of Bonjan Burani came floating into my room again, so I dragged myself out of bed to the dining room where to my great indignation I saw my parents and other relatives sitting around a table full of Afghan party food, including Bonjan Burani which all of a sudden I decided was my most favorite food in the entire world. I started wailing and crying that despite my bloody throat that had just been operated on, I was healthy enough to eat Bonjan Burani!
Really I was just angry that my family was all sitting and enjoying a great meal without me! I thought how dare they enjoy and eat all of this delicious food while I am suffering upstairs living off of ice-cream (growing up on Afghan food, ice-cream could hardly satisfy me). All of a sudden all I could think about was the taste of Bonjan Burani, that night I remember lying in bed craving the tender oily eggplant, the sweet crisp baked bell-pepper, topped with thick creamy garlicky yogurt. By the time I felt better I had completely forgotten about my craving for Bonjan Burani, but the smell of fried eggplant still brings back memories of my childish indignation that everyone was eating good “mehmani” (party) food while I was stuck in bed.
eggplant
Bonjan Burani is fried eggplant, baked with a tangy tomato sauce and sliced sweet bell peppers, and topped with thick rich strained yogurt (mixed with lots of minced garlic), and seasoned with dried mint. Though Bonjan Burani is very simple in composition the combination of flavors leaves a very memorable impression. I am always surprised by the most unlikely fans of this dish, even those who swear they will never touch eggplant I have seen converted by this simple dish. It’s just a beautiful combination of flavors, and I have to admit unabashedly it is a quite rich dish as you can see by the lovely use of oil which I forbid you from cutting back on.
eggplant
Ingredients
2 large Eggplants
1 Yellow Sweet Bell Pepper
3 cups Chakkah (Labna or Greek Yogurt are ready-made options you can buy at the grocery store if you don’t have time to strain home-made yogurt)
-Mix 2 cloves minced garlic and ½ teaspoon salt with the Chakkah
-Chakkah should be thick consistency

Tomato Sauce:
-1 medium onion finely chopped
-3 cloves of fresh minced garlic
-1 large minced tomato
-1 can organic tomato sauce
-1/2 can tomato paste

1. Pour some vegetable oil in a sauce pan (I don’t give measurements for oil it should be just enough to fry your onions in) and fry the onion until almost browned. Add minced garlic and fry for about a minute.
2. Add tomato, tomato sauce and ½ can tomato paste. Let simmer on medium for about 10 minutes.
3. Turn the temperature on medium low, cover the sauce pan and let the sauce develop. You will know it is ready once the oil comes to the top.

Bonjan Burani
1. You can slice you eggplant one of two ways.
-If it is smaller eggplant just go ahead and slice round ½ inch thick slices.
-If the eggplant is larger, you can slice once in middle horizontally (so you have smaller eggplants to work with, DO NOT slice in a way that will leave you with two thin long slices of eggplant) and then flip the eggplant and slice long slices (this will be a more rectangular shape)
2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
2. Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle the eggplant with lots of salt. Leave for about ½ hour. This is supposed to remove the bitterness and extra water from the eggplant.
3. Rinse the eggplant and with the back of a wooden spoon gently press on the eggplant to strain out excess water.
4. Heat a frying pan with about ½ cup of oil (add as necessary), and fry both sides of eggplant until a golden color. Eggplant should be cooked all the way.
5. As you are frying the eggplant prepare the tomato sauce
5. Place the eggplant in a 13 x 9 glass pan. Top with tomato sauce. Add sliced Belle Peppers on top. Cover with foil and bake in oven for half an hour. (You may want to uncover for the last 10 minutes if the eggplant produces too much water)
6. To serve spread Chakkah (strained yogurt) on plate, place baked eggplant on top, spoon some Chakkah on top of eggplant and sprinkle dried mint.
7. Serve with a thinner middle-eastern style bread I personally prefer Sangak, Lavash or Pita.
*Make sure you don’t forget the dried mint it really freshens up this dish and gives it the right contrast
*The best part of this dish honestly is wiping your plate clean with a piece of bread…it’s just heavenly I promise your plate will be sparkling clean by the end of this meal. Once at my mom’s party a dear non-Afghan friend who was very hesitant to eat eggplant actually sheepishly asked her if he could just eat the remaining sauce left on the serving platter with bread…my mom was more than happy to accommodate as it made washing the platter so much easier 

Afghan Eid Tea: Busragh/Khajoor Sweet Fried Dough

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Eid is tomorrow Bakhair, and everyone of course is hustling to get sweets and desserts ready for Eid breakfast, and to serve guests throughout the day as they visit for tea. I should be studying…but I can’t help but allow myself to be distracted with the holiday approaching. So I figured taking a little study break to make something can’t hurt

Busragheh are hard to resist, as they are simply fried sweet dough which every culture seems to have some take on. In Afghanistan Busragheh (also known as Khajooreh) are usually made a larger size, but the area where my family is from people make these sweet treats in small bite size portions. The magic in Busragheh is really in the ground cardamom which really adds a nice fresh taste to an otherwise very short and simple list of ingredients. Cardamom is King in most Afghan sweets, especially ones that are not really dessert but more of a tea-time snack, so they are not as sugary but are made to complement sweet tea.

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This recipe is actually not my moms, but comes from a dear family friend who is an amazing cook. She brought a lot of more old school traditional recipes with her from Afghanistan and shared them with us. I remember back in the days when I was young enough and had a metabolism that I could munch on these small Busragheh and not feel guilty. Now as those days are over, I am more conscious of the calories, but can’t help but help myself to a few of these on occasions like Eid with a cup of sweet black tea or even better Sheer Chai.

Ingredients:
4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 cup Oil
1 cup Warm Water
2 teaspoon Cardamom
1 cup Sugar
Vegetable Oil for frying in a shallow sauce pan

1. Heat vegetable oil on medium in a shallow sauce pan.
2. Knead your flour, oil, warm water and sugar together. Sprinkle and Knead in 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom (which you sieve in so there are no big chunks of Cardamom shell and only sprinkles)
3. Roll the dough into tiny balls, about the size of gumballs.
4. Take a large netted sieve. Take on of the small balls of dough and press it flat gently against the sieve (this will press a design into the dough), then left one end and roll it downwards. This should make an elongated and folded shape. The best way to describe this is as if you are rolling a small tiny burrito, so when rolling downwards one end should roll to the middle of the flattened circle of dough, and then you roll once more to close the shape off.
5. Gently drop sweet dough into the oil and deep fry until golden on medium heat.
6. Once all of the Busragheh are fried, sprinkle another teaspoon of ground cardamom and toss.
7. Serve once Busragheh are cooled off, these can also be kept in a tightly sealed zip lock bag for three months in fridge or freezer.

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Yogurt-Cucumber Salad

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I have been gone from the blogging world for more than a year, all I can say is that I got married…and we all know the rest. I was in some fairytale world of cooking up spectacular dishes and living a life full of glitter and heels… It was just me a bride in a new house with shiny gold necklaces dangling around my neck as I was whipping a storm of spices and flavors in the kitchen, all the while trying my best to keep perfectly calm and collected. It was a tranquil honeymoon period, me, my food processor, my kitchen aid…oh yes and my husband of course. Then I had a sharp snap back into reality as my studies resumed and I simply got overwhelmed. But no worries, I have not forgotten my culinary obsessions…I have actually gotten a better understanding since I can proudly say I have had my share of experiences. The comments and messages I received throughout the year were so kind and inspiring, so I have finally things have come to a pace where I am able to juggle everything, and find some time to myself to blog and share with everyone.
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I am starting off with a basic easy recipe, something light and fresh in these warm opening days of fall. It’s a Yogurt-Cucumber salad that I believe nearly every middle-eastern country has some form of. This one has a bit of a twist, as does almost anything I like to cook. It has added chopped walnuts and golden raisins to add some crunch and sweetness to the creamy yogurt base. The dried dill adds such a depth and richness to the flavor of this salad, so add as much as you like. This dish stands great alone with some fresh Afghan bread, or goes well with Kabobs at a barbeque. It’s a beauty to look at, and the simplicity of the ingredients is overtaken by the wonderful combination of flavors.

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Ingredients:
3 Cups Chakkah (or Chobani Greek Yogurt, I usually do non-fat and it has no effect on flavor)
3 Medium Cucumbers (seeded and diced)
1 cup Chopped Walnuts (should be chunky)
1 cup Golden Raisins
2 Tablespoons dried Dill
1 Tablespoons dried Mint
1 Tablespoon Salt
1 clove of Garlic crushed
Dried Cranberries or Pomegranate (for a nice tart garnish)

1. Soak Raisins in warm water for about 5 minutes until plump.
2. Put yogurt in a mixing bowl, add dill, mint, salt and garlic. Mix in diced cucumbers, walnuts, raisins.
3. Top with dried cranberries or pomegranate.

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